Is it Right for Me as an Artist
For those new to the concept, Print-on-Demand (POD) is the pratice of printing your artwork as you need it unlike, traditional fine art printing services company which have involved setup and minimum quantities.
A lot of artists are discovering the advantage of drop shipping their artwork. There are quite a few companies now that are POD in nature that have sprung up over the years but consistently there are complaints about the quality of the printing, cheapness of materials and poor packaging standards as well as almost non-existant customer service or customer service handled by bots.
In many cases these POD do not even do the printing but are more of a tech company than anything. Where they tend to be focused as intermediaries between shopping platforms or artists websites and other print labs around the country. In other words if they are better at integration so the artist can connect his or her store with the print on demand service.
On the surface this all looks great. After all what could be better but let their website or store accept the orders and the print on demand service instantly fulfills the order. Things are not always as easy as it seems.
This can vary from sеrvicе to sеrvicе. Usually you will havе to providе somе sort of billing mеchanism. This might be a credit card on file but some may allow you to use PayPal. A trend that will likely be more prevalent is the necessilty to select a plan. If you are currently using a POD or have found one you are interested in using, don’t be surprised to find over the next two years they also require you pay them a monthly membership or subscription fee.
Product Limitations or Low Margins
Some POD may be limited to only a few type of products. Popular are t-shirts and cards. Other items include gift style items such as coffee mugs and mousepads. While this may seem enticing, artists typically find these type of items don’t typically generate much in the way of profit. Take for instance a coffee mug. Most consumers won’t spend much more than $15 for a coffee mug, so making a profit off something like that might be a challenge. The POD service may charge you between $5 to $10 dollars for the mug and another $5 for shipping. When they ship the item to your customer, you are charged between the $5 to $15. Other items might have a higher resell rate like t-shirts or canvas prints but choose these wisely.
Pеrhaps thе biggеst challеngе is thе sеtup procеss. Thеrе is no gеtting around this. It usually means creating products that connect with the POD service. You may already have on your store a virtual inventory of products for each piece of art such as various print sizes or print types such as canvas giclee printing or framed prints, but you will find you need to start from scratch. In order for the POD to properly produce the prints you want, then you will need to rebuild those products and options on their platform and then link them over to your store. Hopefully the POD service will provide an easy to follow method of doing this but frequently artists, especially those a little less tech savvy, find the process not only laborious but also a bit confusing.
Quality Issues and Returns
Even though the POD you are the one ultimately responsible for the quality of what the customer receives. Espеcially if thеrе is a problеm with an ordеr. This is whеrе it gеts dicеy. Some POD service might have an easy to implement return mehanism but expect a higher rate of returns with the cheaper the service. So if you are selling items that cost you only $10 to make and ship, don’t expect them to be the highest quality. This is not good since if the customer is not happy, you may loose a fan of your work and a potential repeat buyer. Then there is the return cost itself. Frequently there will be some sort of admin or return fee. So try to factor all this in when setting your own prices.
Ultimately, these type print-on-demand services tend to do well at servicing the artists who is less discrrimenating when it comes to quality and just focused on volume.
There are Good Options
But not all POD services are bad. There are quite a few out there whose focus is more on quality and not about volume. Take for instance, FinerWorks. One of the things that sets the apart is their high level of satisfaction with a range of artists from brand new to the well established. One of their key philosophies is quality and customer satisfaction. There tech side is not bad, but where they tend to shine is on the printing side. You can tell they are foremost a printing company and not just a tech company that poses as a printing company.
While they do offer some of the gift style items such as coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments and such, their main products tend to be wall decor from canvas to framed prints. This is one of the reasons successful artists prefer a company like FinerWors since they are focused on products more suited for the high end buyer or products that generate a decent margin.
What is surprising is most people expect this to come with a premium price. Actually FinerWorks is one of the few companies that is able to offer higher end items as a lower price then competitors in the same space. Internal production processes have been tailor made to make this possible so they are able to offer items less expensively while, using the same brands and materials a high end fine art print or frame studio would use.
When it comes to order fulfillment, they actually were one of the early ones to adopt a method allowing for artists to driop ship their prints. Over the years they have gotten better with integrating with 3rd party platforms like Etsy, Shopify, etc and in 2023 brought on board a brand new team of application developers to focus primarily on building systems that allow for better user experience and integration pratices, with the first project being introduced in the 3rd quarter of 2023.
But even with new tech and applications on the horizon to help their users, FinerWorks still takes pride in its easy to use fulfillment process that they implemented early on. Its as simple as checking a box during the online checkout process that you want the order drop shipped. And presto, your order is sent to FinerWorks production facility where it will be processed and shipped under your brand.
To learn more about FinerWorks, visit their website at https://finerworks.com